Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today on postal reform. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Enshrined in the Constitution by the Founders, the U.S. Postal Service has delivered this nation’s letters since the day of quill and ink well.
Through the years when stamps cost a nickel. Through the years when mail traveled up and down America’s waterways by steamship. Through two world wars, when soldiers sent letters home to their sweethearts.
Through it all, the U.S. Postal Service has been there to deliver the mail – rain or shine.
When I was a little boy Con Hudgens, an old man, walked 22 miles through three feet of snow to deliver the mail to Searchlight from a train in Nipton, California.
But today America’s postal system is in crisis.
Today a personal note from a friend or a payment to the electric company can be delivered online with a few, quick keystrokes.
And this changing technology has meant serious, new challenges for an organization that has served the citizens of this nation – whether they live on city streets or rural routes – for more than two centuries.
Although the world has changed, the postal system’s mission hasn’t – to deliver letters and packages, vital medicines and online purchase, birthday cards and phone bills to hundreds of millions of Americans no matter how rural the places they call home.
Neither has the current crisis changed the importance of that mission.
Nearly half of rural households don’t have broadband internet access, making it difficult or impossible to pay bills or ship packages online. Rural families in Tuscarora and Baker and Elko, Nevada rely on the U.S. Postal Service.
Small businesses benefit from cost-saving options offered at the post office, such as bulk mail. American businesses rely on the U.S. Postal Service.
For seniors who can’t leave their homes, mail carriers deliver life-saving medications and an important link to the outside world. Elderly Americans rely on the U.S. Postal Service.
But unless we act quickly, thousands of post offices, many of them rural, could close.
Hundreds of mail processing facilities could close.
And the jobs of tens of thousands of dedicated postal employees could be at risk.
Timely, dependable mail delivery isn’t the only thing at stake in this debate.
Today the Postal Service employs more than half a million middle-class workers.
And the postal system gives more than 130,000 men and women who volunteered to defend this country a second chance to serve. A quarter of all postal employees are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Postal Service has been played an integral role in the history of this country and the lives of its citizens for more than 200 years.
But it has also seen a 21 percent drop in mail volume over the last 5 years, and is on the verge of insolvency.
Changing times demand a leaner, more modern post office. And to make that possible, the Senate must act.
We must change the Postal Service’s business model to keep pace with technology and keep up with the times.
The bipartisan bill before this body enacts reforms that are major but measured.
It would reduce the number of employees and facilities the Postal Service maintains in a responsible way that protects employees and millions of Americans who rely on the U.S. Mail.
It would responsibly restructure the postal system while preserving overnight and six-day-a-week delivery.
It would help the Postal Service innovate and grow by offering new products that will attract new customers.
And, most importantly, it would save the Postal Service from insolvency. It will help an institution enshrined in the Constitution modernize to meet the challenges of a changing world.
It’s not a perfect compromise. It won’t make every Senator happy. It won’t save every post office.
But it’s a good compromise, and a bipartisan one. And it will save an institution that has been part of the fabric of this nation for more than two centuries.